Balloon tennis and seated cycling get patients moving on North Tyneside hospital ward

  • Video report by Helen Ford

A game of balloon tennis would be an unusual sight in most hospitals. On Ward 24 at North Tyneside General, it is part of the routine.

For the past eighteen months, staff have been incorporating a range of physical activities into the day, as part of a nationwide trial to gauge the benefits.

Championing the so-called 'Active Ward' is Amanda Slee. "A lot of patients come in with poor mobility and it's good for them to get back onto their feet," she said, adding that the goal is helping people to regain some independence.

Ward 24 is dedicated to caring for older patients. Many are admitted after a fall or due to heart and lung conditions. Some are suffering from delirium.

Everyone who arrives here is given a personalised exercise programme, which, alongside physical activities, encourages mental agility, at a time when people can spend many hours seated and indoors.

Painting is among the activities on offer Credit: ITV

During my visit to the ward's dayroom I met Molly, who came to hospital after a fall. She said she was enjoying the opportunity to paint. A fellow patient was busy with word puzzles; another was trying to recognise familiar smells contained in small jars.

Alongside each patient in the dayroom was a member of staff. Ward manager Gemma Williams says the project has enabled them to spend more time together, with a positive outcome for all. She summed it up this way: "It's just made life on the ward happy."

In addition, Gemma says the change has enabled some patients to be discharged home, or back to residential care, more quickly than would otherwise have been expected.

The Active Ward at North Tyneside General Hospital is part of a much bigger project - known as Active Hospitals - which is running across Northumbria Healthcare Trust, encouraging exercise among different groups of patients.

Northumbria Healthcare is one of four trusts across the country currently involved. North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust is also taking part.

The project will be reviewed in the autumn. Whatever its future direction, staff on Ward 24 say the ethos of encouraging physical and mental activity will be here to stay.